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Monday 18 March 2013

'Fairweather friends' and palpitating queer/ns

Today, Hillary Clinton announced her support for marriage equality in a video (see it after the jump). On any LGBT website below the line, in the comments, you will read - presumably - L,G,B or T people condemning her.

It is too late, why didn't she do it before, she's no real ally - you can guess the script.

When the first serving Republican Senator came out for marriage equality last week similar things were said. Same with the conservative British Prime Minister. And the sharpened poison aimed at President Obama by gays on his supposed inauthentic support for gay rights is everywhere.

In her video, Clinton notes her work on LGBT rights whilst she was Secretary of State. In particular, Clinton gave a powerful speech, introducing new policy, in Geneva in 2011 defending LGBT human rights, which she talks about today.

Following her speech, I published an explanation by Doug Sanders of how Clinton's new policy and outspokenness was actually a 'catch up' on the work of numerous other countries well before the US finally got to work. Yet that critique of Clinton is noticeably absent from any of today's criticism of her. The insularity of American gays who are today criticising her, and actually of those citing her State Department work in her defense as well, is telling.

What distinguishes Obama from Clinton is that he has been explicit on numerous occasions in acknowledging that, horror, he is a politician and that it is pressure from below, from movements, which moves him towards, say, openly supporting marriage equality. I've written about this numerous times, particularly in the context of the 2008 fight for the Democratic Party nomination where his statements on this subject contrasted sharply with Clinton's.

During the campaign he gave one interview to an LGBT publication in which he said the following:
Anybody who’s been at an LGBT event with me can testify that my message is very explicit -- I don’t think that the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community, should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. It’s not my place to tell the LGBT community, "Wait your turn." I’m very mindful of Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” where he says to the white clergy, "Don’t tell me to wait for my freedom."
A year after Obama's election he addressed the Human Rights Campaign and here is what I posted at the time:
Here's my tweets as I listened to his speech.
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner "I love you Barack" "I love you back"
pauloCanning:#hrc dinner Obama: "It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady GaGa"
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner He's referencing Stonewall as 'inspiring'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner simple message "here with you in that fight"
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'it's not for me to tell you to be patient' - as with civil rights - now I'm teary
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'you know - and I know - we don't want to be defined by one part of us that makes us whole'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'Do not doubt the direction we're heading +the destination we will reach'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'we will put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'we're pushing for a employee non-discrimination bill. we're ging to put a stop to it.'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'we are rescinding the ban on entering US based on HIV status'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'I will end DADT, that's my commitment to you'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'I've called on Congress to repeal DOMA'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'It's about our common humanity, our ability to walk in someone else's shoes'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner now he's talking about PFLAG 'that's the story of America'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'tonight somewhere in America a young person ... ' THAT'S leadership
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner brilliant rhetoric, worried by the look on his face
The speech was amazing. Historic.

Like the audience, who spent most of their time on their feet, I was really moved to hear a US President say what he said. His last flourish, which stuck progress of LGBT equality firmly into the mainstream of the 'American dream', I couldn't capture quickly enough. It was his classic rhetorical end flourish and he stuck it firmly onto the LGBT cause.

My friend Tobias Grace, who edits New Jersey's LGBT newspaper, said: "Paul: I cried - not so much on my own behalf but thinking of all the young people who will grow up in a world shaped by this man's words and leadership."

But, but ... perhaps that's why I noticed the look. He wasn't smiling. He knew that outside the cheering crowd he faced weren't just pissed LGBT at the lack of actual progress on issue after issue but a mountain of opposition to everything he'd pledged.

Remember, this was the day on which he'd been awarded the Nobel. On what he represents he'd got that acknowledgment and that's a f*cking heavy burden.

I wish I'd captured that exact look as he walked off the stage because it seemed to me one of a man who believed what he'd said, every word, but understood fully what 'change' actually means.

A bitter, bitter fight lies behind "don’t tell me to wait for my freedom". As always, it's accompanied by the background/backroom faint (to some) buzz accompanying it in the LGBT movement between those who would be inside and those who'd be outside, demanding.

Tomorrow's LGBT march on the Capitol is for the demanders and something tells me Obama is with them.
Watch Clinton's video released today after the jump:

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